First released in 1983, the book covers a period in Pakistan history where tensions between the West and Pakistan were very high. The families of two men - one a warrior, the other a playboy get woven inextricably together which eventually affects the politics of the country. Set in the fictitious city of Q Rushdie weaves a tale of fact, fiction and high passion that is amazing though for me sometimes the story seems to leap too far into the future too soon and then takes a step back.
The book seems to highlight the oppression of women in Pakistan along with the sense of inequality that exists. At the same time the women portrayed in the book cannot be said to be the average Jane! None of the women are average. They either seem to be bigger than life or fade into the background completely so that they do not give us the view of being a typical Pakistani woman.
The young woman Sufiya Zenobia who embodies the perception of Shame, is from birth different. First expected as the son to replace the stillborn son her birth is not accepted by her father who insists that she is a boy. An illness whilst a child gives her the mental age of a seven year old throughout her life but at the same time empowers her with magical powers of brute force and strength. Imagined and supernatural both intermix in the telling of the story which also keeps you turning the page expecting something more from each page you turn. You never know how this story is going to turn out and that is Rushdie's cleverness.
When this book first came out it was considered ground breaking. It is used as a text for Advanced Level English literature in Sri Lanka and I am glad of this. Female inequality and oppression have not existed fortunately in our country for decades and though some minor form of discrimination may still exist it is minimal. It is good that students are able to learn that such inequalities exist specially in the region itself and are aware of how lucky we are!!!